Monday, January 08, 2007

Pioneering Spirit Alive and Well in "These is my Words"

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I've heard all of my life about the Mormon pioneers. The women, especially, are highly esteemed for the grit they displayed while crossing the country - whether it was enduring childbirth in miserable conditions, mourning the loss of husbands and children, or simply washing, cooking and mending their way to Utah. They had to have been tough as nails to not only survive the journey to the West, but also to thrive in their new home.

Nancy Turner's These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine 1881-1901 is a fitting tribute to all women who helped settle the wild territories of the Western United States. Although Sarah Prine is fictional and neither a Mormon, nor traveling to Utah, her story reminds me of the pioneer stories I've heard all my life. Her exciting tale, told in journal form, begins when she is 17. Packed in a wagon with her family and their belongings, Sarah is heading from New Mexico Territory toward "greener pastures by way of Texas." She describes the journey in rich detail, making the trip and the other characters come alive. She is a fiery, opinionated character as well as a dead-shot with a rifle. Along the way, Sarah's family begins traveling with a group of soldiers, one of whom is a mischevious captain named Jack Eliot. Although Sarah despises the man, he becomes a pivotal part of her life. Eventually, the Prines end up on a pecan farm near Tucson, Arizona Territory. There, Sarah lives and grows through every kind of hardship and happiness. Hers is my favorite kind of story - one that combines history, romance and humor.

Turner's novel features a cast of unforgettable characters, which simply sparkle with life. Captain Eliot's a charming rogue, Savannah's sweet as a Saint, and Miss Felicity's antics made me laugh out loud. Turner also describes the land and the settlers' way of life with impressive and believable detail. All of these elements combine to make an unforgettable read.

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